What the teams said - Race day in Qatar
Hamilton started from pole, built a decent lead and was in control for the entire race. He came home to win the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix in serene fashion, but behind it was anything but for poor old Bottas. He dropped to P11 at the start and needed a stern message from Wolff to get him going. Climbing through the field on a one-stop strategy, he looked in the fight for the podium but a puncture right at the end of his first stint cost him dear. Dropping out of the points, the Finn wound up retiring due to the damage sustained from that puncture and the subsequent slow in-lap, for his fourth DNF of the season.
Lewis Hamilton, 1st
"It's been a hell of a year so to be at this point of the season and have back-to-back wins is a great feeling. It was a pretty straight forward race for me, a little bit lonely but of course, we needed those points, so a really solid job by the team. A big thank you to everyone trackside and back at the factories for all their hard work. I'm really grateful for these points and it's amazing to be able to close the gap so much in the last two weeks. We've still got our work cut out, but we're loving such a close battle and the challenge that it brings. It was a real shame for Valtteri today, having to retire, but the pace was good this weekend and that puts us in good stead for the next two races. We'll be bringing our triple a-game for those."
Valtteri Bottas, DNF
"Obviously, that was a very disappointing day for me and a tough way to end the weekend, after it started so promisingly on Friday. I struggled on the formation lap to get temperature into the tyres and then being on the dirty side of the grid, I had no grip for the start, so I was just wheel spinning, and was skating around on the first lap. Then I got into a bit of a DRS train but once the gaps opened up, I could make progress, the pace was good, and I could go long on the stint. But then, all of a sudden, I had the puncture without any vibration or warning. We knew we were pushing the limit of the tyre, but I was still getting good grip, we still felt comfortable and staying out was our best shot at a podium. It failed just after the pit entry as well, so the most unlucky part of the track, and the car got so damaged on the lap back to the pits we felt it was safer to retire and save the mileage."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"That was a commanding win for Lewis. He controlled the pace from the front and did everything he needed to do, completely in the zone. The lion got woken up in Interlagos and we saw that today in Qatar! For Valtteri, it was a difficult day, the puncture came out of nowhere, with literally no indication, and unfortunately, he was the first one to pick up the puncture. But while we come away from the race result with mixed emotions, the pace of the car this weekend has been encouraging for the last two races. We know there are still many challenges to come but we're enjoying the ride, when it is so tough, this is exactly why we are in this sport. It's maximum attack for the last two rounds, we've got some points to make up, so this is what we're aiming to do and we're enjoying every minute of it."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"A mixed bag today. On one hand, Lewis showed what he and the car can do over a Saturday and Sunday, his margin in qualifying was truly impressive and even in the race, he only had to do what was required to hold the gap. Valtteri on the other hand had a tough day; we thought he'd be P5 to start which meant the good side but as we were leaving to go to the grid, a second document came out that put us a place further back on the dirty side. That didn't help him get off the line but a poor Turn 1 and 2 dropped him further and by the end of the lap one he was down in P11. From there he mounted a very strong recovery and was getting back into a position where a podium was looking likely.
"We then had the puncture, that came without warning and at the worst place on track, just coming into the final corner so he had to do the whole lap on three wheels. We couldn't make any headway once we were back out on track as the car had been quite badly damaged, so in the end we decided to retire. We move into the final two rounds with a small margin in the Constructors' and a small deficit in the Drivers'. It's going to be tight, but we've got a car that is capable of doing the job and that's giving us great encouragement. We'll likely need to win both races, but we've got good reason to think our strong form from here can carry into the next two. It's a big push to the finish from here but we're looking forward to the fight and can't wait to get back on track in Saudi Arabia."
Handed a five-place grid drop before the start for yellow flag infringements in qualifying, it looked like Verstappen had it all to do from P7. But a great start launched him up to fourth, and he made quick work of Gasly and Alonso to run second. Hamilton had too much pace up front, but in picking up the bonus point for fastest lap, Verstappen ensured he managed maximum damage limitation out there today. Perez had a tougher afternoon, he made progress from P11 on the grid, overtaking a fair few cars as he looked on for a podium. But he was forced to do it all over again thanks to his two-stop strategy dropping him behind the one-stopping midfield cars, and he ran out of laps to recover back up the field.
Max Verstappen, 2nd
“I’m of course happy with the result today. This weekend has been quite difficult for us as a Team and we are still lacking pace, I tried everything I could after the five-place grid penalty so to finish in second and score the fastest lap is really good. I had an exciting start and I knew that the first few laps were really important, I had a good launch and I was fairly quickly back in to second place, from there I tried to keep the gap small and that worked out quite well. I had fun today, especially when going for the fastest lap. It’s a shame that Checo didn’t make it to the podium today, he scored good points for the Team. I’m also happy for Fernando, we all know how good he is, there’s no doubt about that. For now, we need to stay focused, there are still two races left to go and a lot of things can happen, anything is possible.”
Sergio Perez, 4th
“We managed to recover from qualifying and moved through the grid quickly from P11, we were in a very good position to be on the podium but unfortunately it didn’t work out. It was a very exhausting race, I was flat out the whole time, overtaking and pushing. We were changing our strategy throughout the race; at some stages we were going for one stop and at others two, but others’ tyres were exploding so we had to protect ours to prevent getting a puncture and maximise our position in the Constructor’s Championship. I think we had the podium in our pocket but for the second week running a virtual safety car has potentially cost us. I don’t know if without it we would have definitely caught up with Fernando, but we would have been close. It is a bit of a shame but we managed to minimise the damage from Saturday and Valtteri didn’t score any points which is a big benefit to us. Ultimately, I think from a Team point of view we had to play it safe with the constructors in mind. Where we have finished today is a good result for the Team and the longer-term picture, we just have to keep pushing hard and improve our performance in the next two races. Now I am looking forward to Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi because we are going to give it everything, we have a big chance to come on top of the Constructor’s Championship, there is five points in it, it’s all to play for and that is the target.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“Today was a big day, I think Max’s recovery on the first lap was stunning and his first two corners were sensational. Mercedes had a quicker car with Lewis today, but we were able to come back at them in the second and third stint. Whilst we haven’t got quicker, our straight-line speed was competitive today and the fact that Max was able to get the fastest lap before switching to softs was encouraging. Checo was unlucky not to finish on the podium today, I think without the VSC he would have been right with Alonso on that last lap, but he had a great drive and earned us some valuable team points. It’s been a long time since Fernando was on the podium so it was also nice to see him up there. We are now just five points behind in the constructors’ championship and eight points in front in the drivers’ championship, so there are two very big races to come and it’s all to play for. We are going to work hard next week and improve the car as much as we can and see what we can do in Jeddah. I’d like to make it clear that marshals do a wonderful job and our sport could not operate without them volunteering their time, so if any offence was caused I unreservedly apologise, my frustration was with the decision that had been made and not with any individual.”
Alonso profited from both Bottas and Verstappen’s grid penalties to start the race third. He harboured hopes of getting the lead after starting on the soft tyre, but instead had to make do with picking off Gasly for second. Losing out to a recovering Verstappen after a few laps, the Spaniard pitted and slowly worked his way back to that podium slot. But with a fresher shod Perez chasing him down it looked tight to the finish – until a late VSC period helped Alonso escape home for a first podium since 2014. As for Ocon, a great start for him made his race, and he did his best to help his team mate out by keeping Perez behind as long as possible.
Esteban Ocon, 5th
“Today was a great race on our side and I am very pleased to have finished fifth after starting ninth. I managed to pass Carlos [Sainz] and Yuki [Tsunoda] after a good start. I tried to return the favour to Fernando from Budapest; I asked the team if they needed me to defend from Perez. He was on fresh tyres and it was not easy, but I did the maximum I could. Today’s result is almost like a win for us. Everyone in the team deserves credit for this fantastic effort. Twenty-five points’ gain over Alpha Tauri sets us up very well for the final two races of the year!”
Fernando Alonso, 3rd
“It felt fantastic today and to be back on the podium was so good. We deserved this result as a team and I’ve had to wait seven years since my last one. Hopefully we don’t need to wait this long again! We took some risks with the one-stop strategy but it worked out well. We had some strong pace and despite Perez catching us at the end we did enough to hang on. Esteban did a great job in assisting the result and our pitstops were brilliant, so well done to the whole team. I love this track and the car felt amazing all weekend, so I can’t wait to come back here. There was also quite a lot of action and overtakes, which is something we weren’t sure of at the start of the weekend. In the end, it was a perfect weekend for us and we scored lots of points in the Constructors’ Championship, so now we have a good advantage over Alpha Tauri heading into the final two races.”
Laurent Rossi, Chief Executive, Alpine
“What a fantastic team result. Firstly, a huge congratulations to Fernando on his podium. It marks his first since returning to the team and, I must say, after the season he has had, he truly deserves it. We knew a big opportunity would arise today with the pre-race grid penalties for some cars around us, which propelled us into a great starting position. From there, it was down to him at the wheel to navigate himself into contention, for the team to execute the right strategy by making the calls at the right time and the crew to deliver the perfect pit-stop. All of those elements fell into place and the end result is a deserved one: our second visit to the podium of the season. We must not forget Esteban’s equally brilliant drive to finish fifth today. He also enjoyed a superb start, which put him in a great position to score points. He benefitted from other cars two-stopping but still remained calm with others closing in late on to take a very valuable ten points. With today’s points haul we extend our lead on Alpha Tauri in fifth to 25 points with two rounds remaining. While this is a healthy advantage, we’re not going to get too far ahead of ourselves. We have two races to go and, as we have seen, anything can happen in Formula 1. We aim to build on our consistent performances so far this season – by scoring in 18 of 20 races – in order to cement fifth position by the end of the year.”
Vettel was unlucky at the start, running wide to avoid the pack and dropping down to P17 as a result. From there he drove a strong race, making his used soft tyres last over half the Grand Prix as he one-stopped his way to P10 and a solitary point. But that meant it was the first double points result for the team since France, as Stroll converted his great start and one-stop strategy into a very impressive P6 at the flag.
Sebastian Vettel, 10th
“The start of the race proved very costly. We were basically at the back of the train after the first corner. We made a reasonable recovery from P17, but we lost the potential to score more points than we did. On the approach to Turn One, there were lots of cars around me and I was squeezed. I tried to go around the outside but the track was dirtier than I expected and I slid wide. It is frustrating because the car was quick, especially when we were in clean air, and that helped me recover to P10. So, after lap one, it was a strong race, a good recovery, but it hurts when you are on the back foot straight away. It is great to see both cars in the points today so there are many positives to take away from the weekend.”
Lance Stroll, 6th
“The car felt very good today and I am very happy with our performance. I made up a couple of places on lap one and over the first stint it was clear that we had pace to perform well. I overtook [Yuki] Tsunoda on the Mediums and then, after catching the guys ahead, undercut [Carlos] Sainz to move into sixth after stopping for the Hards. Overall, everything went perfectly for us today and scoring eight points at the end of this triple-header is a very satisfying reward for all our hard work.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“That was a complex race from a technical point of view, and I want to pay tribute to two brilliant drives, particularly by Lance, who managed tyre wear and pressure from the Ferraris superbly to finish sixth under intense racing throughout all 57 laps. He was the star of our race today. Sebastian was pushed wide at the start by [Valtteri] Bottas, and had to take to the artificial grass to avoid an accident, which dropped him back to P17, having started from a P10 grid slot. He drove hard and consistently well thereafter, ending up back in the points. Our tyre group and strategy team combined to do a fantastic job throughout, both here in Qatar and at Mission Control at the factory, and it is a great feeling for all of us to record our first double points finish since Paul Ricard in June.”
Sainz escaped a grid penalty and so started sixth in the end, but had a slow getaway on the medium compound tyres from the dirty side of the grid. Running a long first stint helped the Spaniard, with Leclerc capitalising on the AlphaTauri pair two-stopping to climb up through the field and get on his team mate’s tail. After the Monegasque locked up defending, the team did a brilliant job to double stack their drivers and ensure they both had the optimum strategy to bring home more solid points for the team, and further extend their advantage against McLaren in the constructors’.
Charles Leclerc, 8th
"As a team, we ended the weekend on a positive note. Personally, I was happy to see my pace return after quite a frustrating qualifying. I would like to thank our mechanics for the incredible job they did in changing my chassis yesterday. From the first few laps of the race, the feeling I had in the car was already much better and I knew that I could push.
"In terms of the overall result, there is nothing to be excited about when you only finish in P8. But considering that I started from a long way back and looking at the strong pace I had, especially in the second stint on the Hard tyres, I think we made a really good recovery. We will now do everything we can to carry this momentum into the final two races of the season."
Carlos Sainz, 7th
"It wasn’t the most entertaining race today for us due to the amount of tyre management we had to do. However, we did a good job and managed to finish on the one-stop strategy, despite the doubts we had prior to the race. As expected, the race start on the Medium tyre was tough for me and I struggled to fight with the cars around me.
"From there I just focused on extending the first stint to the maximum and then taking care of the Hard tyre during the first laps of the second stint. When I was told we were safe to push to the end I finally had some fun, catching Ocon and Stroll ahead of me. However, being stuck in a DRS train made it impossible to overtake so that was it.
"Overall it’s been a positive triple-header, where I’ve felt confident and fast in the car in every session and race. We have also increased our lead over McLaren so we can be happy about that. Before tackling the last two races of the season a bit of rest is much needed, especially for the mechanics and every member of the race team. Thanks for all the effort guys! Finally, congratulations to Fernando today! Great to see him back on the podium."
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal
"A result to be viewed in light of the championship, which has seen us take another step forward towards the goal we have set ourselves for this final part of the season. We knew we might struggle at this track in terms of tyre wear, as was the case in Paul Ricard for example. We therefore asked our drivers to adopt a cautious approach at all times, without taking risks while trying to make a one-stop strategy work. It was a conservative approach, but given what we saw in the closing stages, it paid off.
The team worked well, having to deal with the strain of this being the third race in as many weekends. The mechanics did an excellent job of changing Charles’ chassis in the time allowed so that there were no grid penalties and then again worked well when the drivers came in for a double-stack pit stop. Now we will briefly pause for breath before aiming to finish the season on a high note."
For the third race running, McLaren found themselves scoring with just the one car, and lowly points at that. Norris was running well having gone for the one-stop strategy, and looked on for an exciting finish with Perez breathing down his neck in the fight for fourth. But the team saw something on the data that worried them, bringing him in for a late pit stop that dropped him down the field, although he did well to recover to P9. As for Ricciardo, he started out the points and finished out the points, having a torrid afternoon off the pace after a warning on his dash meant he had to lift off for most of the race.
Daniel Ricciardo, 12th
“Unfortunately, a pretty disappointing end to the triple-header today. We ran into some issues with fuel, and we had to save which dictated our race. So, not sure what happened but we obviously need to look into it. I’m looking forward to moving on. I think a weekend off is necessary for everyone involved. We’ll debrief now, try to understand the issues today and then we’ve got some sim time next week to get ready for the last two. Let’s finish strong.”
Lando Norris, 9th
"A disappointing race. We could've scored some good points today. The car was very strong, I felt confident and we had good pace compared to everyone behind. Only Fernando [Alonso] had slightly better pace. I'm not sure we could've challenged for the podium, but we had good pace to go for P4, or at least P5, which would've been a great result for us. We lost that position through no fault of our own. It's a huge shame, as the team worked really hard all weekend, but there was nothing we could do."
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“This triple-header didn’t go our way. Lando drove a strong race today and looked set for P4 on merit, thanks to a competitive car, good strategy and an excellent pit-stop. A puncture took him out of contention, and he finished P9. When that happened, his Hard tyre had done fewer laps than the Soft tyre did in his first stint, so this was very unexpected. For Daniel, it was always going to be tough to get into the points from P14. He drove a very strong first stint that pulled him up into contention, but then had to save an unusually high amount of fuel. We’ll have to investigate why that was required on his side.
“My thanks to the entire team, who have worked incredibly hard, both here at the track and back at the factory, and our colleagues at Mercedes HPP, who have given us excellent support. Everyone has pushed very hard through this intense run of races. We’ll go home now, reset, take a weekend off and try to finish the season on a high.”
Just not their day. Gasly started a career-high second, and soon dropped to fourth as the team then pitted him early, committing to the two-stop strategy. While safer, it proved slower and after working his way back through the field, that second stop sent him tumbling back out of the points. Tsunoda likewise was hampered by the same strategy, although he at least got plenty more wheel to wheel experience under his belt. But all in all, not a good day and one where Alpine have jumped ahead in the constructors’ but quite a margin.
Pierre Gasly, 11th
“It’s a really frustrating day. Both Yuki and myself started in the top 10, but went massively backwards during the race. I was giving everything I had inside the car today, but we were just too slow. Even at the start I wasn’t able to stick with Alonso, so we tried to go for an aggressive two-stop strategy, but the pace just wasn’t there. It didn’t work today, which is really disappointing. After the incident yesterday we changed some parts on the car, I don’t know if these could have impacted our race pace today, but we’ll have to go away and review everything, as I just can’t explain it right now.”
Yuki Tsunoda, 13th
“That was a particularly tough race, I struggled a lot on the soft tyre, especially in the first stint. We really weren’t expecting that, as overall this week we’ve had really good pace, but today in the race it dropped off, so we’ve got to look at the data and figure out why that was. It’s a real shame, as Alpine had a very good race today, so we need a strong comeback for the last two races.”
Jody Egginton, Technical Director
“Tonight's race has been a difficult one as both cars struggled with pace and tyre degradation. Yuki’s first stint was compromised when a visor tear off became stuck on the rear wing. This caused a loss of load and balance, necessitating the first stop being brought forward so it could be removed, which dropped him further back than ideal. With Pierre we were struggling with balance, as he had high front left tyre wear, meaning he could not follow the cars ahead. So again, we were forced to bring the first stop forward and adapt the strategy to allow tyre wear to be managed. The net result of these issues impacted track positions and we did not have sufficient pace to recover on this occasion. All credit to Alpine, they really made the soft tyre work and in such a tight battle this has made the difference tonight. Obviously, the entire team is disappointed to have lost ground in the battle for fifth in the constructors’ championship, however there are still two races to go. Although challenging, our objectives remain unchanged and we will be pushing hard to score as many points as we can.”
Both drivers got great starts, each making up four places. But sticking with a two-stop strategy didn’t help them today, as that sent them both backwards. Raikkonen rolled back the years, going wheel to wheel with Latifi through a number of corners in a classic hard but fair piece of racing, but that was the highlight on a quiet day for the team.
Kimi Raikkonen, 14th
“I was surprised by the overtakes we could do, in the end it was an entertaining race. I didn’t expect much at the beginning, perhaps to be able to race with some people as the car was pretty much the same as yesterday, but we had a good start and then things kept improving as the race went on. I had some good battles and by the end we were catching the McLaren and AlphaTauri ahead. I think we got everything we could out of this race.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 15th
“We did the maximum we could, I don’t think anything more than P15 was possible today. We had a great first lap, gaining four places, and then we were in some nice battles for the rest of the evening. We struggled yesterday, but we knew with a good race we could finish ahead of both Haas and Williams – and that is what we delivered. We went for a two-stopper as we knew the degradation was high and the kerbs were hard, and at the end we were quicker than our rivals. Given where we started, we have to be satisfied with our race today.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“We had a better Sunday after a difficult weekend, on a track that has been quite tough for our cars. Our pace through practice, qualifying and the race was affected by some damage we picked up during the sessions, so to pull together a good recovery drive like tonight’s, leaving behind the Haas and the Williams, was a positive. Both drivers did really well at the start, produced some good overtakes and in the end we were able to close to within three seconds of Ricciardo and Tsunoda. P14 and P15 was the most we could achieve today and we did it. Now we have a week to regroup after this triple-header, time to prepare for the final two races of the season.”
Schumacher got the better start of the two Haas drivers, making up a place before falling back. Mazepin briefly ran ahead of his team mate as he chose to stop later, in fact the last driver bar Bottas to get rid of his starting tyres. But that long first stint couldn’t propel the rookie up the field, and in the end he propped up the leaderboard, while Schumacher finished ahead of Russell after the Williams man suffered a late puncture.
Mick Schumacher, 16th
“It was good, and we can be happy with what we achieved today. We made the strategy that we chose and committed to work. The start was pretty decent, we got Latifi at the beginning. The performance of the car was there, and we were right in the window. We were very close to the Alfas which is what we were expecting but on the other hand, not from the beginning of the year. It’s down to our teamwork committing to understanding the car as well as we do and having to work with what we have. We’re still now finding new things, finding new ways of improving.”
Nikita Mazepin, 18th
“We expected the tyres to do one thing and we went medium to soft, and it felt like the balance had a lot of understeer at the end of the first stint. I did decent laps towards the end of the last. I certainly didn’t drive like they were race tyres, I drove like they were qualifying tyres, learning the track with every lap out there. It was a very hot race. Our big goal was to do laps and maximise. Not the easiest one out there but another new track in the mix next time.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“The race today was one of our better ones this year, if not the best. Both drivers did a good job – Mick was fighting with the Williams and Alfa Romeo’s which is unexpected. We didn’t get by them but at least we were in the mix, which was good for the whole team to see. Nikita also did a very, very good first part of the race, keeping up, thinking that he only did 15 laps with the car before going into the race and never driving the car with a full fuel tank. With the other Williams stopping earlier and being on a different strategy, it got a little bit difficult therefore he fell back.”
Williams were having a reasonably sedate race until the closing stages. First Russell suffered a puncture, damaging his front wing in the process. He was able to limp back to the pits and rejoin the field, but his team mate wasn’t so lucky. Latifi also suffered a late puncture, but he’d just crossed the start-finish line. Unable to limp a full lap back to the pit lane, he pulled over off track and was forced to retire. That did bring out a late VSC though, so Alonso for one might owe the Canadian a drink tonight.
George Russell, 17th
"We had an aggressive strategy today and we were trying to push our final stint as long as possible. With the really high-speed right-hand corners at this circuit, the tyres were always going to be pushed to their limit but we had to be that aggressive to be in the fight with the Alfa Romeos. Unfortunately, the left front tyre punctured a few laps from the end so it's one of those things. It was a shame for our race to end that way but ultimately, it's nothing gained nothing lost, as our nearest rivals didn't score any points."
Nicholas Latifi, DNF
"We tried to make the one-stop work knowing that it would be on the limit with tyres, but we thought we could manage it as a strategy call. The surprising thing was that I had no idea that the tyre was about to suffer a puncture, so unfortunately, we weren’t able to adjust our strategy in time. Even once George had to pit again, I still thought that I’d be able to finish the race on my current set as they felt absolutely fine. Overall, I think the strategy was worth the risk, especially once we’d lost track position to the Alfa Romeos, because we couldn’t have done anything more. It’s a shame that the race didn’t work out as the car felt really good around this circuit, but that’s how things go sometimes."
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
"Having lost positions on the opening lap, we were keen on executing a one-stop race, which nearly half the field completed successfully. The first stint tyres were in good condition when we made our stop and so, with management, the one-stop race was viable and was our best opportunity to make progress. The car was working well and both drivers were comfortable and so to suffer the punctures so late in the race was a shame. Nicholas’s was especially annoying as it happened shortly after the pit entry and meant that he couldn’t negotiate his way back to the pit lane.
"Despite being at the final event of a tough triple-header, the team has worked tirelessly and performed well throughout, delivering a good race car to both drivers. We were unfortunate today and deserved better. However, we did a lot of things well and can be pleased with our work this week. We will be back in two-weeks’ time for the final events of the season, starting with the challenge of the awesome new circuit in Jeddah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"With Losail being a new and relatively unknown track, featuring some high energy corners, the teams headed into the race lacking all the information they would ideally want, with only one representative practice session. However, it became clear during the race that a one-stopper was very marginal in terms of tyre wear, requiring a high degree of management. Some drivers encountered tyre problems towards the finish: this was probably due to a combination of very high wear as a result of long stints, and impacts at high speed against some aggressive kerbs, but we'll obviously find out specifically what happened with a full laboratory analysis back at base in Milan. By contrast, Hamilton and Verstappen were able to push to the limit with the strategy that they had selected, finishing more than half a minute ahead of Alonso in third, who made a one-stopper work for him."